As a lifelong entrepreneur, nothing motivates me to be all I can be more than the stories of fellow Detroiters who exemplify what it means to live a life in which there’s a driving sense of purpose.
Given the times in which we currently live, I can’t think of anything worthier than recognizing the amazingly dedicated educators to whom we entrust our children to help them learn and grow.
Detroit native Kiarra Ambrose has valued education all her life. Growing up, she attended a small Catholic school that provided her with an intimate, close-knit community. Her love of teaching blossomed in high school, when she started mentoring elementary school students. A self-described “lifelong learner,” Ambrose has made it her mission from those earliest days to turn her passion into a career educating young members of her community.
Ambrose has been deeply involved in Detroit’s public education system for 11 years, beginning her career in charter schools and teaching at two area high schools before taking on her current role. Today, she’s a math training and support coordinator with Detroit Public Schools Community District, where she works with students and teachers. “My job is an extension of me. My purpose is educating; that’s my core,” Ambrose says.
Ambrose’s holistic approach to teaching focuses on continued education that’s not confined to the four walls of a classroom but can be found outside those walls, as well. This philosophy has led Ambrose to develop several educational programs outside of her work with the DPSCD.
“One of the things I’ve come to realize in my evolution is that education happens all around us,” she says. “It’s not just this idea of being in a classroom. Education is more than just the school itself; it’s our communities as a whole.”
Ambrose mentors young people, works with the Horatio Williams Foundation doing SAT prep, and recently launched #EducationalAlchemy. The company focuses on a holistic approach to learning for students, parents, and teachers, and incorporates life experiences, mindfulness, and movement to make unexpected connections for learning.
As she puts it, she believes in making education approachable and enjoyable for children. “I just love creating experiences for people to learn and then humanizing education,” she says. “Let’s make it more human and more about the experience, the connections, and how we learn from each other.”
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced a change in the traditional learning environment, Ambrose’s philosophy of community-based education couldn’t be timelier. The pandemic, she says, has presented an opportunity for parents to really think about what educating young people looks like.
“One of the things I’ve begun to do with young people in the community I work with is focus on questions like, ‘How do I think through this?’ or ‘What are some skills that will help me increase my flexibility in thinking?’” Ambrose says.
“Critical thinking, flexible thinking, and problem-solving are all skills that we don’t focus on in school because we’re so focused on content,” she adds. “Content is secondary, whereas how you think is what will really carry you further and give you the confidence to delve into content.”
The well-being of our children and the opportunity for them to grow and learn, build confidence, and be inspired by educational opportunities that we, as parents and other adults, entrust educators with is paramount.
The next great invention, scientific discovery, or work of art depends first on our children being inspired by their teachers. They must enjoy and value the process of learning. In order for that to happen, we need educators who see learning the way Ambrose does, in order to open our children’s minds to new ways of thinking.
“We’re all lifelong learners. Every opportunity presents a chance to learn — either what to do, or what not to do,” she says. “I want folks to embody that, and carry that with them as they move through life.”
As a community, we must support and applaud the shining examples of those who contribute to our society as a result of their exemplary achievements. We’re grateful to Ambrose and others like her who have made it their life’s purpose to provide the best possible education for our children.
Jeff Sloan is founder and CEO of StartupNation and Aria Ventures, both in Birmingham.